Panahi update


The turmoil in Egypt dominates the news from the Middle East, overshadowing the recent oppressive measures imposed by the Iranian despots. Apparently in an attempt to stifle any anti-regime resistance inspired by the events in Cairo, the Tehran government has hanged at least 73 people in recent weeks, many of them political prisoners.

That's the atmosphere of oppression and terror that Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rosoulof find themselves in as they face sentences of six years in prison and a 20 year ban on making films. I had thought maybe the government might be easing up on their position after reading last month that Ahmadinejad had expressed disapproval of the harsh punishment.  Now, I'm not so sure.

Fortunately, the outrage felt by he international film community and others does not seem to have diminished. The Berlin International Film Festival, which had invited Panahi to serve in their jury, will leave his seat vacant, protesting the Iranian government's refusal to let him participate. Cannes plans to award Panahi with a lifetime achievement award, probably in absentia, and also is sponsoring an online petition to free him and Rasoulof (another petition is being circulated by Amnesty International). Paul Haggis a few weeks back indicated that he would try to get people during the Oscar broadcast to wear white awareness ribbons in solidarity with the two filmmakers

And last week at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards ceremony where we announced our statement condemning thes sentencing (here is my awkward but earnest recitation), Jeff Malmberg, winner of the Best New Filmmaker and Best Documentary Awards for "Marwencol," grabbed a bucket of the green (the color of the Iranian opposition party) awareness ribbons (too bad we could not have coordinated this with Haggis) that we were making available to those at our event and said he would distribute them to those attending the Independent Spirit Awards, the night before the Oscars on February 26.

Some other ways of protesting this injustice can be seen in this whimsical, but pointed video.

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